To me,this week has been emotional to say the least. As I learned last week about Nelson Mandela’s fragile condition I remembered his book “ Long Walk To Freedom” and how it impacted my life ever since I read it a few years ago.
As I reminisce on those pages today, the words take on a different meaning. Perhaps because now I am reading them as a Yogi and not just an admirer of the revolutionary (which I still am).
This week I have been letting Mandela and his life inspire my practice on and off the mat. I have been reading his quotes in my classes and I have been hoping for him to either recover or leave his body in the most peaceful and dignified manner
Mandela’s story is one of the most remarkable and multifaceted ones of our time. It is one of a young boy who came from a little rural town to become the first elected president of his Nation. It is also the story of a man who wouldn’t give up his beliefs of freedom and equality for all even if he had to sacrifice his family, his friends and his life. It is a tale of endurance and an example of how far can the human spirit go even when the body has been imprisoned and mistreated. But most importantly, I think, it is a story of transformation and humility.
Most people know Mandela’s story. His 27 years long ordeal in prison and his coming to presidency and efforts in uniting a very segregated South Africa.
What many tend to forget is that just before being imprisoned, and tired of the slow achievements of his movement, he created and lead the Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), or “Spear of the Nation.” The MK was the violent, militarized wing of the African National Congress.
He was responsible a few bombings, for organizing violent resistance and planning guerrilla warfare. However he wasn’t able to fulfill most of this plans as he was imprisoned in 1962.
This is where, to me, the most inspiring part of Mandela’s story takes place. Something amazing happened to him in prison. He transformed.
He changed from deep within. He turned resentment, bitterness and maybe even hatred into forgiveness. He changed violent revolution for peaceful resistance. He chose the path of Love.
Some of the most remembered of Mandela’s tales take place during prison and just afterwards. Many of his quotes about forgiveness, equality and freedom come from this period. But they all take on a whole new meaning when you think of how different his words, his thoughts and his actions were just before prison.
One of his quotes that most inspire me reads as follows: “ As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” That is the transformation he went through.
In order to truly transform, one must be able to let go of everything that might bring us back to what we once were. Usually this is hard and painful. And we must learn to do this constantly, every moment holds an opportunity for growth and transformation, but we must learn to let go.
This is our only chance of ever finding peace and contentment.
Love and Hapiness,